Seborrheic Dermatitis: Is Shaving A Solution?

Have you been experiencing itchy, flaky irritations on your skin lately? Then it may be unbeknownst to you that you have a condition known as Seborrheic Dermatitis. It is very unnerving and uncomfortable to have this condition, as it significantly affects your skin’s texture and appearance. Fortunately, modern knowledge and technology have brought dermatologists and other innovators closer to finding treatments for this disease. 

Everything you apply or do to your skin can affect its vulnerability and resistance to certain infections and conditions. So that begs the question, do some of these essential activities that are part of your daily, weekly, or monthly routine affect your risks of getting Seborrheic Dermatitis? Specifically, how does the routine of shaving affect your chances of developing such a condition? 

Luckily for you, we are talking about this particular topic in this article. This will serve as your detailed guide on Seborrheic Dermatitis and how the regular activity of shaving contributes to it. Is it a helpful activity, or is it just another detrimental home remedy? We are going to talk about that in the later section as we need to talk about the symptoms of this disease to help you spot it quickly. 

An infographic image on seborrheic dermatitisΒ 

Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms

Skin diseases are hard to differentiate but there are still ways to determine what type you have. In this case, here are the Seborrheic Dermatitis symptoms you must observe.

a photo of someone with seborrheic dermatitis's head skin
Photo credits: All Things Magnified

🟀 Flaking skin 

The skin will noticeably appear with small white fragments, known as flakes. These are usually composed of dried-up skin material. If the condition happens in an area that is near to body hair, you will start noticing dandruff that was not previously there. These flakes can eventually cause discomfort alongside the other symptoms in this list.

🟀 Scaling skin

Your skin will start to appear scaly on the infected area, which is rough and greasy in texture. The scales may vary in color, but the primary colors that can be seen will be yellow and brown. These crusty scales can eventually spread in various parts of the body: particularly those with hair, and are in-between tight spaces such as your armpits and the sides of your nose.

🟀 Reddish irritations on the skin

You will begin to experience reddish irritations on the skin that can become very itchy and uncomfortable. The itchiness can even reach a certain point where the patient cannot sleep or do their daily tasks comfortably. It may also lead to breaking the outer part of the skin, which makes it prone to infection. If you think that your skin is becoming infected, this should be resolved by going to your doctor or dermatologist.

🟀 Cradle Cap on infants

Yes, even infants can get this condition. The leading indicator of Seborrheic Dermatitis in infants is Cradle Caps, which are flaky, crusty dandruff that forms on the scalp. Even though the infant still has very few strands of hair, this dandruff can still accumulate on their heads like a “cap.”

Listed below are the common areas where Seborrheic Dermatitis may be spotted:
>>Upper chestusually occur in the areas of your upper chest that are near hair follicles.
>>Below the breastsame with chests, only this time, its main spot is lower than the previous one.
>>Private areasspecifically, the groin and the buttocks will be one of the common areas where the condition may proliferate.
>>Near the navelyou may observe your belly, specifically around the navel area, for any signs of this disease.
>>Armpitssome tight areas are prone to Seborrheic Dermatitis, as we previously mentioned. This makes the armpits one of those prone areas.
>>Around the nosethe sides of your nose can often accumulate grease and oil. You may notice an excess production of these oils even though the skin seems to be dry.
>>Around the eyesyou may notice the same symptoms on your eyelids, eyelashes, and the area around your eyes as well.
>>Behind the earswhen grown-ups tell you to don’t forget to scrub behind the ears when you’re bathing, they mean well. However, in the following sections, we will find out if showering and hygiene increase your chance of getting Seborrheic Dermatitis.

Though these are the common symptoms that a patient needs to watch out for, they can’t be entirely confirmed until the doctor confirms them through various clinical tests. Doctors will usually scrape a sample of the infected skin of a patient and view it through the use of a microscope. 

Seborrheic Dermatitis can be pretty confusing due to its similar symptoms to other skin-related diseases such as rashes and eczema. It can indicate a condition as mild as allergies or as severe as lupus, and it may still display the same symptoms. 

Causes Of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Now we will proceed to the actual symptoms of this condition. However, it is essential to note that because these causes are so varied from person to person, experts can’t indicate the leading cause of Seborrheic Dermatitis. 

🟣 An abnormal response of the immune system

Like some forms of hives and other skin-related irritations, the immune system can sometimes respond abnormally. This causes the skin to become irritated, as your immune system is trying to fend off something foreign that causes minimal to no harm. It is primarily an indication that your immune system reacted too harshly to something that may not even be a threat in the first place.

🟣 Allergic reactions

As we previously mentioned, there are times when the immune system would react too aggressively in a situation that does not require it to do so. In this instance, however, the foreign material is something that can be specified. Allergic reactions can trigger the effects of Seborrheic Dermatitis, so be cautious about the materials you are allergic to.

🟣 Stress 

Stress can cause a bunch of imbalances in the body which can affect its various functions. One of these functions is the reaction of the immune system, which can begin to react differently due to high levels of stress. Excess stress can also cause your skin to undergo changes, such as causing sebum production to rise, contributing to various skin conditions.

🟣 Malassezia yeast

This is a yeast that is local to our outer skin. In short, as disturbing as it may sound, this yeast is a resident of our skin, and it constantly grows there without even paying rent. Malassezia yeast can eventually grow to a size that your immune system may consider a threat and overly react to it. As odd as it may sound, a common skin yeast is actually the leading cause of this condition.

🟣 The effects of medication

Some medications can irritate the skin or cause the immune system to overreact. This can eventually lead to the symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis. Antibiotics, in particular, can cause an imbalance in your microbiome and kill the bacteria that suppress the growth of the Malassezia yeast on your skin. The yeast will then start to proliferate and cause your immune system to attack in response.

🟣 Inherited acne

Acne is primarily a genetic condition that affects a large portion of the world’s population. People who have acne or inherited acne have a greater chance of developing Seborrheic Dermatitis than those who don’t have it. Inherited acne may have a more significant part to play as experts pointed out that the condition in question can actually be genetic as well.

🟣 Weather and temperature

The weather and temperature around your environment can also affect your risks of getting Seborrheic Dermatitis. Mainly, cold weather with low levels of humidity can increase your chances of getting this condition. Add this to your list of reasons why climate control in your house or establishment is necessary. Cold temperatures can also lessen the effectiveness of your immune system, so be sure to find a way to warm yourself up constantly. 

Now we will talk about the risk factors for this disease. Specifically, what certain medical conditions or living conditions can affect your risk of contracting Seborrheic Dermatitis.

>>Agenewborns and older adults that are over the age of 30 are prone to the disease
>>Mental conditionsanorexia nervosa, depression, and Parkinson’s are just some of the mental conditions that make the patient prone to Seborrheic Dermatitis.
>>Alcohol consumptionthose who consume higher levels of alcohol are also prone to the condition.
>>Compromised immune systempeople with conditions that hinder their immune systems, such as HIV and AIDS, are also at the risk of contracting the disease.
>>Disease recoverythose recovering from potentially fatal diseases such as strokes and heart attacks are prone to the condition due to the certain medications that they have to take. They will also have a compromised immune system during this time which further increases their chances. 

Does Shaving Help Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Before proceeding, we have to clear up one vital fact: shaving is not a complete treatment for Seborrheic Dermatitis and shouldn’t be expected as an alternative to dermatologist-approved treatment. However, shaving does have some specific pros and cons when it comes to these conditions.

βœ… Pros of shaving when you have Seborrheic Dermatitis:

🟒 The yeast will be exposed to sunlight. 

Shaving will help clear off the hair that covers the fungus. Fungi can be harmed by direct sunlight, which you can’t exactly do if the yeast is wrapped in your body hair. This is only applicable in some regions of your skin that will usually receive sunlight, such as the scalp, arms, and some parts of your face.

🟒 It can lessen the amount of dandruff.

Dandruff can often accumulate in hairy areas of your body. Thus, shaving the hair off can lead to smaller amounts of dandruff. However, you shouldn’t expect that you will remove the flaky or scaly texture of the skin through shaving alone.

🟒 It makes that part of the skin easier to clean.

Your own body hair can often get in the way when cleaning your infected skin. Shaving can serve as a method to clear interferences and lets you spot the areas that need cleaning more efficiently. 

🟒 It can lessen the irritation.

Since you will be able to clean the skin properly, you will be less prone to further irritation. Removing the hair around the infected skin can also allow open-air to circulate, which can remove that warm, moist environment that suits the growth of fungi and bacteria.

🟒 It can prevent the condition from worsening.

With all these factors in mind, shaving can potentially suppress the condition and prevent it from worsening. It may also relieve some of the symptoms, especially itching and irritation. However, with these pros of shaving in mind, you should also consider the cons.

❌ Cons of shaving when you have Seborrheic Dermatitis:

πŸ”΄ Improper shaving can lead to backfiring results.

Shaving improperly, such as applying too much pressure or using an unclean shaver, can potentially cause negative effects. Causing a wound from shaving to open on the infected skin is one of the last things you’d want when dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis. This can further worsen the infection by breaching the protective layer of the skin and allowing harmful bacteria to enter. 

πŸ”΄ Shaving will not always work as the condition is on a case-to-case basis.

As we previously mentioned, the cause of Seborrheic Dermatitis is unclear because of its many possible involved factors. Shaving may not always be an effective soother or suppressor to the condition because fungi may not always cause it. The condition can be caused by stress, an immune system response, or your own genes. In these cases, shaving may not even be helpful or have minimal effects on the condition.

πŸ”΅ Does shaving really help?

As seen with our listed pros and cons, shaving helps in some cases but not in all of them. It is definitely not a quick fix to all cases of Seborrheic Dermatitis. So that begs the question, is it still worth shaving if you have this condition? The answer is actually dependent on some factors that only you can answer.

If you are diagnosed with Seborrheic Dermatitis, then you most likely already went to the dermatologist to confirm it. If that’s the case, you may contact them if shaving is preferable in your condition, as you may have other underlying problems that can be affected by shaving.

πŸ”΅ What should you expect when shaving?

The next point you have to consider is if you are actually comfortable with the idea of shaving, especially if the infected skin is on your scalp. Thorough shaving on the head is usually done for those who have the condition in that area, meaning you’ll lose a lot of hair. So if you believe that your dermatologist has already suggested enough treatments and solutions for your condition, it’s best to leave that work up to them.

However, we do recommend that you shave if your dermatologist suggests you do so. It can offer some benefits that can help you feel more comfortable during the treatment. The decision is still up to you, though, as hair is one of the things that most people are conscious about.

Should You Worry About Seborrheic Dermatitis?

An image of the head skin of someone with seborrheic dermatitis
Photo credits: Dr. Vikram

Seborrheic Dermatitis can often be a long-term condition that can appear and disappear at specific periods in one’s life. However, you will be relatively fine if you just follow your dermatologist’s instructions even if the condition suddenly reoccurs. It is rarely a fatal condition and will usually just cause discomfort or irritation. If you are worried about its effects on your skin and hair, you shouldn’t be, as it doesn’t usually pose any potential permanent threats to the two.

🟑 Side effect

There are, however, some side effects that can lead you to seek medical attention for alternative treatment. The leading side effect is a bacterial infection that may form due to breaching of the infected skin from either scratching too much or shaving too roughly. In this case, the derma may offer antibacterial treatment to you to prevent the infection from worsening. 

If you’re concerned about the other members of your house, this condition isn’t contagious besides genetically. It mainly stems from your immune system and the local fungi on your skin, which usually go hand in hand. Besides, almost everyone has the same type of yeast in their skin; the main contributing factor to developing Seborrheic Dermatitis is how your immune system will react to it. 

🟑 Eczema

Eczema is commonly mistaken as Seborrheic Dermatitis which is why a patient can make it worse by using the wrong treatment. This common skin condition is making the skin inflamed and very itchy and is usually triggered by environmental stress, genes, or weak immunity. Eczema is a chronic skin illness that causes frequent flares or red skin, especially when exposed to triggers. To determine if you have eczema or Seborrheic Dermatitis, go to the derma and have a skin test.

🟑 Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is also confused as Seborrheic. Eczema is the general term for inflamed, itchy, and scaly skin. And atopic dermatitis, together with Seborrheic, is some of the types of eczema. Atopic type usually targets infants and manifests excoriation. There is also a study that a patient with atopic dermatitis is at risk of having skin cancer.

Treatments For Seborrheic Dermatitis

There are different forms of treatments for Seborrheic Dermatitis, and they will usually deal with removing the symptoms themselves. Whether or not the condition will resurface after the treatment depends on the root cause and if it is identified. Some of these treatments include:

βš•οΈ Antifungals 

These substances are able to eradicate various types of skin yeast, including Malassezia yeast. Antifungals, however, may cause irritation and itching after usage due to how the skin identifies them as a foreign material.

βš•οΈ Salicylic acid

It is commonly used when treating other skin condition such as acne. It works by unclogging the pores. For Seborrheic Dermatitis, it works by causing the scaly skin to soften and detach from the infected area, slowly but surely removing the symptoms.

βš•οΈ Oral and Topical Corticosteroid 

These substances work the way some allergy treatments work: by calming the immune system down. If the root cause of your condition is an abnormal reaction of the immune system, then this treatment will work effectively. It can also relieve irritation, itchiness, and possible swelling if your skin has been breached. There is available oral and topical corticosteroid in the pharmacy but you need to get the advice of your derma on which dosage form is for your case.

βš•οΈ Certain shampoos 

Choosing a shampoo for the affected area of a skin condition is very crucial. Chemicals that are included in your medicated shampoo can worsen your skin problems. Shampoo can be mixed with three distinct substances to treat the condition. These substances will usually be coal tar, ketoconazole, and zinc pyrithione. All of these substances will relieve the symptoms and eradicate the fungi that may have caused the condition.

Of course, they do have some mild side effects such as irritation and itching, because they work by basically peeling off the infected layer of skin. Selsun blue is the most common dandruff shampoo that you can use, especially if advised by a healthcare provider. They may also change your hair’s texture as they are different from your typical bath gels. Shampoo with coal tar may also leave behind traces of coal that you may notice on your towel. 

βš•οΈ Anti-seborrheic drugs 

These are specific treatments for Seborrheic Dermatitis, and they are usually the best choices for this condition. They target both body-related and fungi-related causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis by inhibiting some functions such as cell replication in both. However, they will have minor side effects such as itching, irritations, and rashes that may appear somewhere else in the body. 

There are also some home remedies that you try by yourself and see if they are able to reduce the symptoms of this condition. Some of which are listed below:

βš•οΈ Apple cider vinegar 

For this remedy, you have to dilute the substance in water first before using it. ACV contains a variety of antioxidants that can help cleanse the skin and remove possible bacteria and fungi that may have accumulated in the infected area. This solution is great for the skin folds of your scalp to your neck.

βš•οΈ Fish 

You can change your diet by leaning more on fish oil. These foods are rich with omega-3 fatty acids that can help rejuvenate and restore the damaged area of the skin. They also have other nutrients that can lessen the effects of Seborrheic Dermatitis. Remember that this skin condition affects the oil glands giving you oily skin. And, if you change your diet to a healthier oil source, your oil glands will only produce what your body needs.

βš•οΈ Coconut oil 

You can use coconut oil on your skin to get rid of some of the fungi that may have caused the condition. You can rub the oil on the infected area and allow it to stay for a few hours before rinsing.

βš•οΈ Avoiding alcohol 

Alcoholics are found to have higher risks of developing Seborrheic Dermatitis than non-alcoholics. If you regularly drink these kinds of beverages, then it may be time to hide that bottle from yourself for now. 

Ways To Prevent Seborrheic Dermatitis

Having this condition means you are prone to having it as a long-term disease. If you already received treatment, then you still have to prevent it from reoccurring. There are some precautions you can take to prevent or minimize its effects. 

➑️️ Avoid stress

Stress can cause imbalances in the body which can lead to your immune system being affected. It may react differently to certain diseases, which can cause the symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis. To combat this, we recommend that you take a break constantly in order to minimize stress. Not only will it prevent Seborrheic Dermatitis, but it can save you from an abundance of conditions as well, especially cardiac-related illnesses.

➑️️ Switching up your diet

You should lessen alcohol consumption and eat more fish oil-based foods to prevent this condition from resurfacing. Vitamin D should also be one of your priorities. This is because those with lower Vitamin D levels have higher risks of developing Seborrheic Dermatitis. Lastly, you should avoid salty foods, as well as certain food products that your skin reacts to.

➑️️ Avoid harsh cosmetic products.

Some cosmetic products can irritate the skin, but some have contents that are harsh enough to trigger Seborrheic Dermatitis. You should be careful when choosing what products you apply to your skin, and it is preferable if you consult with your dermatologist first.

➑️️ Pay a visit to your dermatologist regularly.

Depending on the state of your condition, you should visit your dermatologist at least annually. This allows them to monitor the condition of your skin and what type of treatment suits it the best. They are trained professionals who can point out your condition’s possible causes through a series of questions. Doing so will allow them to find solutions and preventive measures to ensure that the disease will not resurface once more. 

Bottom Line

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a condition that affects numerous people around the world. Though it isn’t contagious or life-threatening, it is still an uncomfortable condition to have around and can cause discomfort to the patients’ daily lives. With this in mind, everyone should note that this condition is not because of one’s own personal hygiene.

Be sure to keep our tips in mind in case you suspect that you have this condition. Remember all the possible symptoms and the risk factors you may belong to. You may also try the home remedies we provided, but it is still the best option if you just go to your dermatologist.

Adjusting your lifestyle to treat or prevent this condition may be troubling at first, but it is worth seeing your skin the way it is. Fortunately, medicine has improved to the degree that we are able to treat cases like these despite not knowing what directly caused them to appear. But one thing’s for sure: shaving is not one of these causes and is an effective suppressor as long as you do it right.

Christina Garcia

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